The new Natalie Maines record is continuing to spur music writers to slam the "cowardice" of the country-music industry and the stuffiness of the country-music audience in the aftermath of Maines trashing President Bush at a London concert on the eve of the Iraq war.
On the NPR show "Fresh Air" on Wednesday, music critic Ken Tucker insisted Maines was just ahead of where the majority would arrive on Bush's wrong-headedness:
TUCKER: When Natalie Maines remarked from a London stage in 2003 that the Dixie Chicks were, quote, "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas," she was criticizing Iraq War policy that would earn her instant condemnation and worse, even as her take on that war would eventually become majority consensus.
No matter. What she and her groupmates felt in immediate response wasn't just an overreaction from a segment of the country-music audience. It was also the cowardice of a music industry running scared from blunt political ideas in a perilous industry economy.
There's a tendency, therefore, to hear every song on this album as some sort of response to Maines' life-altering remark and her subsequent public retreat.
Tucker -- who was a longtime writer for Entertainment Weekly magazine, who celebrated the (nude) Dixie Chicks on their cover -- is complimenting Maines to call her anti-Bush crack a "take" on a war, as if Maines had studied Saddam Hussein's record. She was standing on a stage in Europe where she knew Bush was unpopular and pandered to the leftist crowd. Was it really courage in that moment? It certainly wasn't a moment of Geopolitical Deep Thoughts (insert Jack Handey music here.)
MRC's Ken Shepherd pointed out to me that in Tuesday's Washington Post, music critic Chris Richards exaggerated the "quasi-exile" of the Dixie Chicks and Maines, although he at least noted they put out an album in 2006 (that was celebrated by the liberal media). Richards was sad the new Maines CD is pushed as a rock album, because country fans need some "defiant voices" to get in their conservative faces:
And maybe the reason country music feels so electric with potential right now is because it felt so stiff in the previous decade. That’s when Natalie Maines of the multi-platinum Dixie Chicks wandered off into quasi-exile. You might remember why.
“Just so you know, we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas,” Maines announced to a London crowd in 2003, bashing the policies of then-President George W. Bush and stoking a backlash from country radio that left lasting psychic scars. Maines and her Dixie Chicks responded with their 2006 masterstroke, “Taking the Long Way,” but when the band went on hiatus in 2007, Maines disappeared.
But with the new Maines album, Richards wrote, "The other disappointment here has nothing to do with the music, but the marketing — “Mother” is being pushed out into the universe as a rock album, not a country album. And that’s a shame. The community that shut Maines out a decade back could use a few more defiant voices in today’s conversation."
He fails to see that the "defiant voices" can be the ones who dare to upset the liberal "anti-war" media, like Toby Keith or Charlie Daniels.